How is it possible for the police to seize your money without even charging you for a crime?

Posted By Levi

May 12th, 2015 8:58pm

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This is just unbelievable. But it happens all the time. In America, people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Yet the law allows police to take away your money or property without even charging you with a crime.  Here is how the Washington Post describes what happened to this guy.

Joseph Rivers was hoping to hit it big. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the aspiring businessman from just outside of Detroit had pulled together $16,000 in seed money to fulfill a lifetime dream of starting a music video company. Last month, Rivers took the first step in that voyage, saying goodbye to the family and friends who had supported him at home and boarding an Amtrak train headed for Los Angeles.

He never made it. From the Albuquerque Journal:

A DEA agent boarded the train at the Albuquerque Amtrak station and began asking various passengers, including Rivers, where they were going and why. When Rivers replied that he was headed to LA to make a music video, the agent asked to search his bags. Rivers complied.

The agent found Rivers’s cash, still in a bank envelope. He explained why he had it: He was starting a business in California, and he’d had trouble in the past withdrawing large sums of money from out-of-state banks.

The agents didn’t believe him, according to the article. They said they thought the money was involved in some sort of drug activity. Rivers let them call his mother back home to corroborate the story. They didn’t believe her, either.

The agents found nothing in Rivers’s belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade: no drugs, no guns. They didn’t arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent . . .

This is possible under a program called civil asset forfeiture which allows law enforcement to seize cash or property without charging people with a crime. It has existed in the U.S. for many years. All the police need to have is sufficient suspicion that the money may have come from some illegal activity such as selling illegal drugs.

Under the law the police is allowed to keep the money so the program has become a boom for police departments all over the country who use it to support their budget. You can get back the money but you have to sue the police and many people don’t have the resources to do this.

In 2014, the Justice Department seized almost $4 billion under the program. No wonder many people see it as highway robbery.

Here is John Oliver’s take on the program.

Twitter: @Levianthony123

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